This week is National Volunteer Appreciation Week so I want to thank all of you who volunteer in your community! Volunteering is an incredible way of helping others and supporting your community and neighbors.
I love to volunteer for many reasons – I feel so fortunate to be alive, healthy, financially stable, educated and loved by many. I know how lucky I am to be here, especially as a 17-year cancer survivor. I believe that everyone can pay it forward in some way. Maybe not financially, but we can all donate our time and talent. Every minute can help others.Consider this information:
Last year, 62.8 million Americans volunteered almost 8 billion hours!* This equates to almost $184 trillion! Need another reason to volunteer? Volunteers have 27 percent higher odds of finding a job after being out of work compared to people who don’t volunteer. Consider the new skills you learn and people you meet as added bonuses of helping others.
If you haven’t yet found the time to volunteer and help others, no worries. You can start tomorrow (or today depending when you read this)! Maybe you’re wondering how to get started and what you might be able to do. There are thousands of nonprofits that need help! Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Start with your local community: Think of what interests you or what really makes you passionate (Are you a cancer survivor too? Love animals? So grateful to your shelter for helping you or someone you know? Experienced in planning events or finances?). Check out some nonprofits near you. Ask your family and friends where they volunteer and what they like about these organizations.
Thank your church: Many churches welcome volunteers to help with activities such as office tasks, answering phones, greeting members before services, and during Sunday School for the children. Our church hosts coffee time between services where members volunteer to greet others, donate baked goods, and basically ensure everyone is enjoying the social time as we get to know each other.
School time: Those of you who are parents know that most teachers and schools love to have volunteers help out in the class and at activities. I’m not just talking about PTA. While I may not yet be a parent, I still love volunteering at my nieces and nephew’s schools. I’ve done everything from chaperoning field trips to helping with classroom activities to checking out books during library time to assisting at holiday events.
Volunteer with a group: Volunteering with others is a great way to help and have fun at the same time! Gather your family, friends and/or coworkers together to help make a big difference. Many nonprofits have special group projects, such as spring cleaning gardens, packing food boxes, painting and building homes. The local horse rescue organization that I support organizes group volunteer days in the spring and fall to clean the farm for the four-legged residents. Tasks can range from washing water buckets to fixing and painting fences to organizing the feed room to cleaning the pastures. It helps the organization get a lot of big projects done quickly while also exposing many people to the great mission and animals. And I love meeting new horse-loving people!
Cuddle some animals: Many animal shelters need people to play with and simply love the pets in their care to help socialize the animals waiting for adoption. Many of these animals have been abandoned and possibly abused so letting these furry creatures know there is lots of love in the world can help them find a home.
Hang out with seniors: I have so much respect for the generations above me and love talking to them to hear about our history through their experiences. Some senior citizen homes have volunteers come in to play games and activities with the residents and help them not be alone.
Focus on your passion: I’m pretty passionate about fighting cancer, helping others touched by cancer, and anything horse-related so it’s probably no surprise that I give a lot of time and energy to organizations with missions that fit my interests. I am particularly partial to organizations that support young adult cancer survivors since I know first-hand the powerful impact cancer can have on you when diagnosed at that vulnerable stage of life. Do some research though. As you can imagine, there are thousands of organizations focused on cancer so I thoroughly research an organization, meet some of the staff to ensure we ‘click’ and commit to organizations that I feel really need my help (I refuse to help as a volunteer or board member just to list this on my resume).
There really are SO many volunteer opportunities available throughout the country, even world. Many communities have an organization that lists volunteer opportunities throughout the area (Volunteer Impact is one example in the Detroit area and Volunteer Impact highlights U.S. opportunities). What are some volunteer opportunities you participate in?
*source: Corporation for National & Community Service.